I’m known as “The French Kiwi” to everyone around me. Born in Whangārei, in the North Island of New Zealand, I had the only French name in town. And boy did I get picked on for that!
For the first seven years of my life, I grew up in foster care. The family were so wonderful. Then my birth parents found me, and I lived with them and my two siblings. It was really different to what I was used to in foster care.
School wasn’t for me. I got picked on a lot for being different: for having a different sounding name, for struggling with learning, and having ADHD and dyslexia. My dad was unwell and unable to leave the house, so I chose to skip school and spend my time with him. His passion for cooking and showing me how to cook mean feeds have stayed with me all my life. I’m known for big, boss cook-ups! Although my housemate has expressed some concern over the amount of butter and oil that goes into some of it, I’ve told him it’s good for ya, just look at this figure!
As a kid, my uncles took me out to learn how to live off the land. Our family was big on making sure we could take care of ourselves: hunting, fishing, pigging, diving. Have you seen the size of our wild pigs? If you know them and you know me, you’ll know who’s bigger…and it wasn’t me!
At 19 years old, I was working on the rubbish trucks and had a blast building friendships and being part of a great community of boss blokes. Often we’d find treasures everyone else was throwing out. A nice little bonus for us blokes that didn’t have a lot.
In my early thirties, I met the woman of my dreams – she’s absolutely stunning. We have a son and daughter together and I couldn’t be prouder of the friendship they have and how much they care for each other.
In 2017, after things turned rough in NZ for me, I moved to Perth to live with my cousin in Rockingham. When I got here, the house I got told to go to was empty and completely boarded up. I had nothing and no-one. This was the start of living on the streets. I soon found the Church of the Latter-day Saints. To this day I remain grateful; they truly saved my life. Two years into being homeless and living in the city, I started selling the magazine. This gave me the opportunity to start being able to buy myself food.
Now, I still sell The Big Issue on and off, but have secured accommodation living with a friend who is also a vendor. If I could say what I’m best known for, I’d say it’s the ability to put a smile on anyone’s face, the loud music I dance to in the streets, and a stomach that can never be too full.
Looking to my future, I hope to take advantage of the new citizenship opportunities for Kiwis. I really want to bring my family here, but I know I need to have a solid space for them to come to, so that’s what I’m working on now.
Francois sells The Big Issue at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Interview by Erica Fluit
Photo by Ross Swanborough